Local international students in limbo with new possible ICE rule

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG)- A new ruling from Immigration and Customs Enforcement might send international students home before classes even begin, including those in our area.

The new ruling coming from ICE could make it to where students cannot take full online course loads and remain in the United States despite the pandemic. Luckily, local Universities like South Alabama are offering hybrid courses, but if any international student doesn’t feel safe in a classroom setting yet they may have to pack their bags.

Jim Mather runs “Friends of Internationals” in Mobile and helps thousands of international students adjust to like in America. He says his students within the program are afraid of the unknown “international students are one of the most precious resources that any University has. They are just shocked and a little bit scared because its the unknown.”

Mather having dinner with some of his international students.

With the majority of schools starting back in less than six weeks, the idea of possibly having to enroll somewhere else and having to go home poses lots of problems, like time difference and internet access for these online courses along with financial issues. Mather says flights alone could put a student in debt. “The majority of the nations that we have students from they are not permitting anyone to fly in our out of that country so it is an impossibility to even obey the order. Secondarily where do you get two to three thousand dollars for a ticket?”

Kuang Xiong is from China and is a pre-pharmacy major at USA and says the whole situation just isn’t right to her. “Having online classes doesn’t invalidate their visa. If they want to stay here, I don’t think it’s right for the government to kick them out.”

Students like Xiong are hopeful for change in this policy because for them it is so much more than just about the coursework. She told us, “You want to get to know more about the culture even when they go shopping or to the grocery store, they can talk to someone and that is an important part of studying abroad, it’s not just about having classes.”

The ruling also states if a school decides to switch to fully online courses mid-semester due to the virus, those students would have to leave then too, so this issue could be far from over.

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